smART Kinston City Project Foundation promotes growing ‘creative economy’

KINSTON, NC (WNCT) — The smART Kinston City Project Foundation is a nonprofit that’s looking to grow Kinston’s “creative economy.”

“smART Kinston is a smart initiative which is available in any city if someone is like Stephen Hill. He is our founder and a great supporter of the program,” said Raney Rogers, the executive director.

The nonprofit is dedicated to bringing artists from all over to Kinston to practice their craft, work, teach and share their art and more.

“Artists need support. That’s very important,” Rogers said. “If you come together as a community of artists, then you have a support system that’s built-in that you can trade ideas with. [You can also] trade disappointments with and come together and create a greater awareness of the arts in general which is what everyone needs.”

One of the reasons artist Gail Kelly moved to Kinston from the West Coast to the East Coast was for the smART Kinston City Project Foundation. She explained how she “heard about Kinston, which had a program that was helping artists help the city, and I said that’s a good thing I want to be part of that. So, we moved here.”

Jamil Burton has been an artist for quite some time now.

“It’s my passion. It’s my lifeline. If I need it, I’m sure everyone else does too,” Burton said

Burton said smART Kinston City Project Foundation has made a difference in his life.

“It’s an opportunity to do something in the community,” Burton said. “I feel like every community across the country needs art. It’s essential. It’s not a luxury. It is more so an essential thing. It brings the community together.”

The nonprofit helps artists also build meaningful relationships.

“Art is what keeps us human. It’s what allows us to be individuals and express our individuality,” Kelly said.

If you want to check out the artists’ work the smART Gallery is located at 210 North Queen Street in Kinston. It is open Thursday through Saturday from 1-5 pm. Here is a link to the artists’ profiles.

“We do rely on grants from corporations and individuals, in any amount,” Rogers said. “We welcome it. We think it is for a very good purpose.

“We integrate with the schools and the arts council and there are other art galleries here, too that we are working with so we can create gallery crawls and bring more of a focus to the arts here.”

If you’re interested, an Artist Talk is coming on July 30 by Maner Nobles. For more information, including how to get involved, head to

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